Apps

203 posts categorized

February 05, 2016

Can Mobile Tech Solve Long Lines at the Grocery Store?

 

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Retailers are regularly on the lookout for ways to improve the customer experience and cut costs—if there’s a way to do both at the same time, that’s even better. One emerging trend in this area involves utilizing mobile technology to help expedite certain transactions. Tech companies, restaurant chains, clothing stores, and more businesses have implemented cloud-based point-of-sale (POS) systems in an effort to reduce long lines and other potentially problematic retail behaviors.

 

What Is a Cloud-based POS System?

 

Traditionally, when you go to the grocery store, the final step in your customer service journey includes the interaction you have with a checker tending a stationary till at the front of the store. The number of checkers and cash registers is limited by the resources available. As a result, customers might have to wait in long lines to make their purchases. If this sounds like a familiar scene, you’re not alone.

 

What is less familiar (but currently growing in popularity) is the mobile POS system, which manages transactions and other customer-related actions exclusively online. As a result, the transaction is accessed remotely using a mobile technology device like a smartphone, tablet, or iPad. 

 

Is a Cloud-based POS System Safe? 

 

Customers not accustomed to making purchases online might find the mobile POS a little intimidating, especially if they’re fearful of online corruption or attacks. For customers who are comfortable with making online purchases, the process is only slightly different from buying goods at popular online retailers like Amazon or eBay. 

 

For customers, cloud-based POS systems are just as secure as traditional transaction methods. Security features include encryptions and fire walls to protect incoming and outgoing personal data. 

 

From a retailer’s perspective, the shift to a mobile POS system actually mitigates some risk of fraudulent activity. In the future, credit card companies are expected to make good on all purchases (even fraudulent purchases) so long as the vendor has upgraded to a mobile system. 

 

A Better Customer Experience 

 

One of the greatest advantages of using a mobile POS is that customers can make purchases from anywhere in the store. Moreover, with sales associates standing by, customers can get answers and assistance for a broader range of needs, including inventory, warranty specifics, price checks, and more. 

 

By making this information mobile, retailers stand to save money on overhead while simultaneously making more money on the sales floor. Imagine how much potential business is lost because a customer doesn’t want to wait in line to ask an inventory question. By offering a mobile solution, associates can deliver expedited service to customers that would otherwise never make it to checkout. Meanwhile, giving sales associates more flexibility on the floor will make them more productive and likely reduce the number of required sales associates.  

It’s not a matter of if retailers will decide to make the switch to mobile POS; it’s really a matter of when. Several retailers have already made the transition and are offering customers a wide range of transaction options like mobile receipts and quicker checkout times. As the technology develops further, this trend will become as prolific as retail stores themselves, ultimately changing the way we do business on a daily basis. 

 

January 31, 2016

The Best Ways to Monetize Apps

 

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Knowing which monetizing strategy will work best for a mobile app is like trying to figure out what’s in the secret sauce atop your favorite burger. You can see bits and pieces of familiar condiments and spices, but when you try to make it at home, it’s never exactly the same. Maybe that’s because there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, or secret sauce, for monetizing apps. 

As strange or cliché as this hamburger analogy sounds, it’s safe to say that most burger recipes are uniquely their own; and that’s typically the way all successful apps find their way to the top of the charts. Creating a unique app is most certainly the first step in creating a viable monetization strategy—your secret sauce—and your ticket to a wildly successful app. 

If no two apps are exactly the same, it’s logical to assume that no two apps make money in exactly the same way either. There is, however, a good chance that most successful apps use similar strategies, in a variety of combinations, to optimize strengths and dull app weaknesses. Understanding which mobile marketing strategy - or combination of mobile marketing strategies - will be most effective for your brand is a core requirement for success. 

Here’s a look at some of the best ways to monetize apps using popular strategies. Think of these techniques like you would ingredients to the secret sauce on your burger. Ask yourself what works best with your app, and try combinations until you’ve made something delicious…I mean profitable. 

 

Freemium Apps 

It’s a play on words, and it also accounts for 93 percent of all downloaded apps in 2015. Freemium apps are just what they sound like—they’re free. So, in order to use this ingredient effectively, your app had better offer a premium, or upgraded version, for a small fee. 

This strategy only works well, though, when there are clear advantages to the paid version; it also has be to a first-rate, highly useable, and addictive app. If this sounds like your burger, then feel free to say it’s free; but be sure you’ve got a better version of the app available for purchase. 

 

In-app Purchases

Depending on the meat of your app—the genre, if you will—in-app purchases are a great seasoning to add. The trick here is to make a game that’s highly addictive and charge users small fees to enhance their addictive experience with features like profile personalization, game currency, or increased usage. 

Once a user makes the first purchase, he or she is usually hooked. Game apps like Candy Crush Saga made an estimated $630 thousand a day with this technique. You can, too, if you make an appetizing app. 

 

In-app Advertising

Think of in-app advertising like you would an assertive spice blend—use too much, and your burger is ruined. Successful in-app advertising does two things: compliments multiple ad networks and functions within well-designed ad space. 

In other words, in-app advertising should not be the only revenue source holding your app together. Additionally, thoughtful and strategic ad placement is very important to the ad’s success. An occasional banner add at the bottom of your favorite app isn’t so bad; pop-up ads flashing across your smartphone screen every 30 seconds are not the way to go. 

 

Sponsorship 

Finally, sponsorship is a great way to offer products or services most relevant to your consumer. Prominently displayed sponsors will pay for both impressions and clicks if this strategy is implemented correctly. 

The important thing to remember about this monetizing tactic is that what you’re selling, and when, is critical to the user’s experience and general acceptance of the advertisement. 

For example, the RunKeeper fitness app partnered with third party Kiip to showcase products that would appeal most to runners, particularly during times the app was aware the runner had just started or completed a run. Timing is everything, and sponsorship monetization needs that and good products to be successful. 

Building your app’s unique monetization strategy will require some trial and error; but the payout for the time investment can make all the difference in your journey. What’s in your secret sauce?

January 28, 2016

mPulse Mobile Boosts Funding to $10m

 

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What if I said your healthcare plans could fit in the palm of your hand? For a topic so significant, especially on the political stage, it would seem impossible to assume that all our daily healthcare needs could be met with something small enough to hold—something, say, the size of your cell phone. 

But that’s exactly the direction some mobile apps are turning, as healthcare costs continue to soar and our need for personalized healthcare grows. mPulse Mobile is a perfect example of how one little startup from California is making the most of this gap in medical demand by securing almost $10 million in series A funding last week.

But this is not a story about altruism and improving the lives of the general public—those are welcome byproducts of what mPulse is doing, but certainly not at the core of their endeavors. mPulse was simply in the right place at the right time. 

Chris Nicholson, mPulse Mobile’s CEO, is the former COO of Humana, a Kentucky-based health insurance company. Humana and Nicholson were working with mobilStorm, a secure messaging company and mobile marketing firm. Nicholson was looking for ways to save administrative costs, but instead decided to spin off of mobilStorm and create mPulse Mobile. 

 

Value of mPulse in Society 

mPulse Mobile is a secure messaging service designed for healthcare organizations, patients, pharmacies, medical providers, and medical device companies. Messages can be sent using a variety of systems including basic SMS and secure web portals or integrated into existing apps. mPulse aims to offer a more transparent healthcare experience with tailored features to meet growing patient need, while also cutting costs for medical providers, pharmacies, and other related healthcare industries. 

Right now, the app is really in its infancy, offering services that aren’t more complex than fancy calendar reminders about doctor appointments and prescription refills. But that’s all going to change, thanks to funding by HLM Venture Partners, a firm that invests exclusively in market-leading technologies for the healthcare industry.  

With the funding, mPulse plans to take its fancy calendar to the next level by expanding on proven tools to enhance analysis, natural language processing, and text messaging in real time. In essence, the app will attempt to fill several voids caused by administrative error, lack of human resources, and limitations on imparting sensitive information effectively. 

mPulse has made some impressive partnerships as well. Digital health pioneer Inland Empire Health Plan, a not-for-profit also from California, is working with mPulse to help its 1.1 million users improve patient engagement as well as the overall medical outcome. 

"Our sole focus on healthcare combined with extensive experience delivering mobile consumer solutions makes us the ideal partner for companies who need provider, plan, pharmaceutical, and population health solutions," said Nicholson. 

What he really means to say: mPulse can save you money. 

 

January 25, 2016

Google Play Now Offering Promo Code Support for Apps

 

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The introduction of discounts, special offers, and promotional codes was never about saving consumers money. Retailers are more interested in getting bodies through the door than they are with customers’ financial standings. By rewarding customers with exclusive offers that result in even a tiny bit of savings, stores can get consumers to spend more than they would without the offer. And what’s more exclusive than a promotional code? Promo codes are like secret passwords that open the door to savings—and American’s love them. 

But guess who didn’t have a promo code feature built into its online app store? 

Google, that's who.

It’s rare that anyone gets a chance to point out missteps by the technology behemoth. Now, Google has finally equipped its Android app store to make good on some long awaited discounts. 

Apple has been using promo codes in the App Store for years; meanwhile Google showed little interest in expediting the technology. And now that it’s here, there are some curious limitations: the codes can’t be used for in-app subscriptions, and developers have to ration 500 codes per quarter. 

 

What will those poor developers do?

All kidding aside, there are some lucrative reasons why consumers (and developers) should be excited about this better-late-than-never leap forward by Google.

For starters, consumers stand to save money (albeit a small amount) and experience apps they may have otherwise missed when browsing. By giving these codes out to family and friends, developers can encourage small but relevant growth—and also gain valuable feedback from small groups of users.  

 

Great Growth Opportunities

The potential for growth is huge. Gaming apps are the bread and butter of both the App Store and Google Play. But that doesn’t mean other industries won’t benefit as well. 

However, this is really about marketing products and convincing people to act. Moreover, the exclusivity of the limited time promo code is a force to be reckoned with. 

In addition to improving marketing efforts, the promo code will also serve as a conduit to test freemium games among the media, while providing more objectivity to app reviews. This has little intrigue for the general public, but could be a huge advantage for developers looking to get feedback on newly emerging apps. 

Remember, as appealing as the promo code is, it’s just another tool marketers will use to promote their products. Why Google is so unfashionably late to this party, it’s hard to say. 

As consumers, keep an eye out for these special offers and see for yourself whether it’s worth the time and energy to save with a secret code. 

 

January 16, 2016

Hyperlocal Messaging App Partners with Twitter

 

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What could possibly be easier than making purchases online? A new localized messaging app called Lookup is attempting to make things easier with offline initiatives. Lookup, a Bangalore-based free messaging app is taking over consumer’s offline space, helping to deliver food, book flights and schedule appointments. 

In January this year, CEO and Founder of Lookup, Deepak Ravindran, raised $382K in seed capitol, which included money from Twitter co-founder Biz Stone. 

Nine months after the seed funding round, Ravindran locked in $2.5 million in series A funding led by Narayana Murthy’s Catamaran Ventures, Global Founders Capital and again, Biz Stone, to name but a few. 

 

Social Networking

It was no surprise when, at the end of last year, Lookup officially partnered with Twitter, adding some 350 million active Twitter users to the app’s growing user base. According to Ravindran, the partnership will be mutually beneficial. 

“Our idea is to make Lookup ubiquitous," said Ravindran. “Twitter's real-time communications platform could not be skipped for Lookup's on-demand local commerce service.”

Local service is what Lookup is all about. Using chat features already available in most smartphones, users simply text or chat special requests to Lookup—things like dinner reservations, movie tickets, hair appointments and more. 

With Twitter now onboard, the service will implement use of a Twitter handle (@Lookuplite) to make these same requests in real time in both public and private conversations. Just Tweet a request @Lookuplite and a response will appear shortly after to service the request. 

Twitter’s partnership will provide a much larger audience to the delivery service, as well as streamline the user experience both on and offline. 

“We want Lookup to be the Google equivalent for finding products and services offline, said Ravindran. “For this, we hyperlink every local store near you with a simple chat app which give you synchronous connection to the verified vendor.”

 

Lookup Looks Forward 

Currently, the app is operational in three local areas throughout India: Bangalore, Mumbai and Delhi. Millions of Indian users are already using the app service to acquire goods and services without making a call, using multiple apps or searching the web. 

“I’m honored to be a part of Deepak’s next big project,” said Stone. “I’m very excited about working with such an inspiring entrepreneur, whom I share common ideologies with.”

Lookup is already pushing forward with new developments including Offline API—a unique concept where users can get access to anything on demand from local merchants. Additionally, the startup is focusing on streamlining the booking process, adding new vendors and building out its user base.  

With a friend like Twitter (or Stone) in the startup’s corner, it’s safe to bet this won’t be the last time Lookup gets noticed. 

January 06, 2016

The Apple Watch Isn't Going Anywhere

 

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The Apple Watch was one of the most profitable gadgets sold throughout this year’s holiday season. According to one report, an estimated 6 million units will be sold by year’s end, making the Apple Watch the most popular wearable on the market.

While some may scoff at the idea of wearable technology, it’s clear that a large number of consumers favor the advancement of flashy phone accessories despite high price tags and minor hiccups from first-generation models. For those on the fence about whether or not these time-keeping wearables are just another fad, the forecast in 2016 looks bright.  

 

What the Numbers Reveal

The wearable market is likely to be dominated by the Apple Watch until 2019—giving the wrist device a wide birth for improvement, as well as more time to grow app development and diversity. According to a report by International Data Corporation (IDC), this year alone Apple sold 13 million watches for a little over 60 percent market share. If these trends continue, by 2019 the total number of units sold will reach almost 50 million.

Edging out some of Apple’s profits will be Android Wear, which sold a modest 3.2 million units this year. However, by 2019, Android will have acquired almost a 40 percent market share—impressive, but certainly a distant second to Apple. 

The numbers strongly suggest the Apple Watch and other wearable devices are headed for greener pastures, but the utility of these devices is still far from necessary in 2016. Most people won’t be able to afford the phone accessory simply because it’s still too expensive and requires newer (more expensive) versions of the iPhone. The next iteration of watches will likely not be much cheaper. Additionally, most people that have an Apple Watch are still using their iPhones just as much as they were before, which, at its core is what wearable tech is all about. 

On the positive side, Apple Watch is listening to consumers and making improvements. It also features some of the most sophisticated health software available. But unless you’re trying to get in shape, keep time, or occasionally respond to a text while driving, few people will benefit in an extraordinary way.

 

So what does all this mean? 

In some ways, the Apple Watch and other wearables are behaving just like a trend first starting out—most people ignore it until it goes away (3D-TVs) or until they simply can’t live without it (cell phones). 

The questioning remaining is whether the Apple Watch will take on enough utility to prove valuable in addition to a cell phone. Right now, the answer is no. But given the nature of the smartphone industry, it’s very possible that developers will come up with new and inventive ways of using technology to solve all kinds of unique problems. 

January 05, 2016

Smartphones Helping Us Cut 180 Million Tonnes of Carbon Emissions

 

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Mobile technology is helping us drastically reduce our C02 emissions, according to a new study from the Carbon Trust. The research, jointly funded by international telephony companies and Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI), claims 180 million tonnes of emissions are saved annually - five times greater than emissions caused by the operations of mobile networks and mobile tech developers.

The study examined 60 carbon-saving mechanisms in 10 different categories, and evaluated a variety of uses for mobile technology, including uses for machine-to-machine and Internet of Things applications.

In an impressive, wide-ranging report, smartphones are shown to have made significant savings in areas like building management, route planning and employee carbon footprints, as an increasing number of workers conduct the majority of their business from home. 

Furthermore, the research highlights a number of areas for future emissions reductions. In a  survey of 4,000 smartphone users from the USA, UK, Spain, Mexico and South Korea, more than half the respondents said they would be willing to reduce their emissions by using mobile technology to recycle more products and encourage insurers to lower premiums in return for more ecologically sound driving habits. Nearly half said they would be more likely to use public transport if they had an app to tell them when the next bus or train would arrive. 

But it’s the emissions savings already being made on a daily basis that is most encouraging. For example, 84% of smartphone users who drive a car regularly use satnav and other GPS apps to reduce congestion and generally plan and execute their trips in a more eco-efficient way; 40% would consider using a self-driving vehicle in the future. Nearly half of respondents said they purchased digital books and newspapers, rather than the more environmentally-costly print versions. 

Other carbon-cutting lifestyle changes that a majority of respondents said they would be willing to make include mobile apps that control home heating and cooling (68%) and mobile-accessed public services (63%). Around half said they would cease using cash and credit/debit cards if they could pay for goods with their smartphone, and 63% said they would consult with doctors remotely for non-urgent issues. 

The list of eco-efficient applications goes on. But what’s even more exciting is the potential for developing economies to completely bypass high-carbon infrastructures by using mobile technology. For a world facing critical climate change, that would be the most sustainable move we can make.

January 04, 2016

Nintendo Launches First Mobile Game

 

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Nintendo fans can finally celebrate their beloved gaming system on their handsets. In March of next year, Nintendo will launch its first-ever mobile app, Miitomo, a communication focused game interface with customizable personal avatars.

Earlier this year, Nintendo announced its partnership with DeNA, a fellow Japanese company focused on mobile apps and development. Together, the duo is committed to bringing Nintendo’s familiar game style to the handsets of millions of users around the world, as well as launching a new online gaming community. 

In addition to its social focus, Miitomo will also focus on entertainment and include internal mini games and other gasification features. There are even discussions about linking the game to users’ Facebook friend lists so that players can communicate with people already in their social spaces. 

Currently, the only revenue potential built into the free-to-play game is clothing users will be able to purchase for their avatar. 

Despite obvious links to the gaming community, Nintendo hasn’t been on the forefront of handset gaming. The partnership with DeNA has been something Nintendo avoided speaking about as recently as January 2014. 

According to Nintendo’s rep at the time, “Nintendo’s intention is not to make Nintendo software available on smart devices.”

Despite Nintendo’s early resistance, the company has made a few things about the mobile developments perfectly clear. For one, DeNA and Nintendo will only be working on original games specifically optimized for the smartphone experience—that means you’re not going to see Mario or Luigi on your handset anytime soon. 

What’s more, all the existing Nintendo IP will be eligible for development by the new license. So, even though Nintendo says no Mario Cart for the iPhone 6S, it’s possible all of that might change sometime in the future. 

 

What the Future Holds

In some ways, it feels like Nintendo is testing the waters before it dives straight into the mobile game world. Depending on how things go with Miitomo, the company may gain some much-needed confidence.

However, all of this raises interesting questions about the success of one gaming platform and its potential success crossing over into new territory. Can Nintendo make a successful game for handsets? Or will it regret the discussion to cross over if Miitomo doesn’t play out to plan?

Nintendo fans should be open-minded come March of next year. They may not get exactly what they’re expecting, but it could be something better.

January 03, 2016

The App That's Keeping Tour Operators in Touch with Tourists

 

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There’s a new app designed to keep tour operators in contact with tourists while on their way to local attractions. Recently launched in New Zealand, the app was developed by Auckland-based company Skoot in a joint effort with JUCY, Tourism Radio and Putti, a Spark Ventures company. The app allows businesses to cater to tourists planning the next leg of their vacations. 

 

A Plethora of Functions

Skoot is available as a smartphone app that may be mounted to a rental vehicle. It offers a variety of functions, including onboard GPS navigation, safety messages, information on local activities, WiFi hotspot, and accommodation options in real time. The app also allows tourists to make purchases through stored credit cards on their smartphones. 

Skoot CEO Hayden Braddock notes the app is a built-in audio tour guide that recognizes user location and automatically provides information on over 1,600 local tourist attractions.

“Throughout their journey, Skoot is designed to keep tourists engaged with both local information and relevant promotions - served by audio and digital display feeds,” says Braddock. “Each business on Skoot will effectively have control over their own application which is able to be accessed and used within the Skoot application or on its own in the APP Store. The retailer gets the benefit of being able to create and manage their own app and content in real time, update deals, products, info, branding etc. Tourists will only have to download the one app when they travel around.”

Braddock added that he and other company members believe this is the first time something like this has been done. He also noted that the app will be linked to its nationwide 4G network that allows up to five other devices to use the WiFi hotspot when installed in a rental vehicle. 

 

Future Uses and Safety Promotion

Future incarnations of the app will include a click-to-call function using VoIP. The feature makes it possible for tourists to call and book local attractions for free.

“Tourists are also able to redeem digital vouchers which appear as they close in on local attractions and purchase their tickets at discounted rates using a preloaded credit card,” says Braddock.

The app promotes road safety by helping tourists navigate New Zealand roads and deal with assorted conditions as they arise. Drivers will be alerted to safety hazards such as high crash areas and one-way bridges, as well as when to stay left or slow down. 

Braddock commented that the app will provide more opportunities for the company’s business partners in the future, such as payment methods that encourage tourists to purchase promotional tickets to events and attractions and subsequently expedite their entry. Businesses will also be able to tailor their offerings based on the season, proximity, and other factors. 

Whether the app will be usable in other countries is unknown at this time, however its benefits make the possibility very real. 

December 27, 2015

What Will Happen to Mobile in 2016?

 

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What’s to become of the mobile market in 2016? Said market certainly isn’t going anywhere, and plenty of innovations and changes are expected. Overcoming various hurdles is also in the mix, and with that in mind, check out a few mobile predictions for the New Year: 

 

Messaging App Marketing

Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp are on their way to having 1 billion active users monthly. More services and marketing opportunities will be added to both messenger services in 2016, giving marketers the chance to further break from traditional advertising and come up with unique options. 

 

More Mobile Payments

Paying for, well, anything through smartphones is something that will likely continue in 2016. Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, Android Pay, and similar mobile payment possibilities are set to become standard smartphone features, however undoing years of paying with cash, debit cards, and credit cards as opposed to swiping a smartphone takes diligence. Mobile wallet incentives such as coupons, rewards and loyalty perks, and similar discounts will therefore be required if this form of payment is to really take off. 

 

Increased Data Release

Consumers are predicted to allow more personal data release in 2016, though whether they’ll do it willingly is up for debate. The “convenience and value” of the connected world is something consumers like a lot, so the release of more personal data to publishers and marketers is a distinct possibility. 

 

On-Demand Delivery and Small Businesses

Small businesses will get in on the on-demand delivery action in 2016, something that’s mainly been reserved for corporations and other big businesses. Food ordering, package delivery, and similar easy-to-use services are great for small businesses, and something more of them will utilize in the New Year. 

 

Facebook=Entirely Mobile

The days of checking out Facebook feeds through laptops are increasingly coming to an end, with the social media juggernaut set to become “entirely mobile.” In Q3 2015, 78 percent of Facebook’s $4.3 billion in ad revenue worldwide was due to mobile, and many of the site’s users log in through their phones anyway.

 

Stronger Cybersecurity 

The creation of more cloud-based services and more consumers relying on their phones to purchase goods and services means strong cybersecurity is a must. Small businesses should take note of cybersecurity options, as more cyber attacks are predicted for small businesses in 2016. 

 

Battle For “Mobile Moments”

In a blog for Forrester.com, analyst Thomas Husson called mobile moments the next “battleground” among marketers. 

“Mobile moments – a time when consumers picks up their mobile devices to get what they want in that moment of need – are the next battleground where to win, serve, and retain customers,” he writes. “Mobile experiences are too static today and leverage too little consumer context. As customer expectations of convenience escalate in 2016, the pressure will be on firms to tap new technologies to serve customers in context where they already are – not where brands find it convenient to serve them. Firms must look to use context both to assemble and deliver experiences dynamically on their own and third party platforms.

“In particular, we expect alternative ecosystems beyond Android and iOS to emerge. With consumers using fewer or more integrated apps, new mobile platforms that offer a more relevant experience such as WeChat in China or Facebook Messenger in the US are quickly accumulating power as the owners of vast audiences and rich data about those consumers.”